The original atmosphere in the carriage, which was once filled with a sense of loyalty and servitude, was disrupted.
Seeing Master Han with a worried expression, his head lowered in silence, Prince Yan spoke reassuringly, “Master, don’t be concerned. Ninth Brother has been spoiled since childhood. You don’t need to pay him any mind. He won’t trouble you anyway.”
Han Jiao snapped out of it and realized he had unintentionally ignored Prince Yan. He quickly forced a smile and replied, “I understand. The Ninth Prince is fundamentally a lord who respects and values his subordinates. He won’t easily trouble his officials.”
“Respects and values his subordinates?” Prince Yan couldn’t conceal his disdain. “You’re talking about my Ninth Brother?”
Han Jiao sincerely praised the big boss, “Indeed, I believe the Ninth Prince is a magnanimous gentleman at heart. Despite being entangled by me on numerous occasions, he has never held a grudge against me.”
Prince Yan laughed, “That’s because he can’t get angry with you. He told me today that you’re as soft as cotton and that you won’t fight back. He even specifically instructed me not to be rough with you if you get into trouble.”
Han Jiao: “……”
Could this be the real reason why the big boss had a better temper than in the novel?
Because Han Jiao lost a duel to the kidnapper, he assumed he was fragile.
Well, the big boss thought it wasn’t a bad thing that Han Jiao wouldn’t fight back. In the big boss’ eyes, those who fight back probably wouldn’t live long, and leaving in such a condition was quite undignified, often with multiple fractures throughout their body.
Back at home, Han Jiao cleared his thoughts and began to carefully recall what had happened at the banquet.
Why did Prince Yan suddenly change his attitude?
Throughout the banquet, except for the time when a military official harassed Han Jiao, he had been paying close attention to Prince Yan’s interactions with other princes.
Prince Yan had been sitting with the big boss all along, occasionally toasting the Eldest Prince and a few other princes with whom he had good relations.
In the novel, the Second, Fourth, and Fifth Princes, who were part of Senior Minister Li’s faction, had almost no interaction with Prince Yan.
Looking at it this way, the most suspicious character was the Eldest Prince, whom Han Jiao wasn’t very familiar with.
Upon closer thought, after the banquet ended, Prince Yan had approached them with the Third Prince, maintaining a casual attitude as before. It was only after the Third Prince scared him away that things took a strange turn.
At that moment, Han Jiao had been focused on explaining the case investigation process to the Third Prince and hadn’t noticed where Prince Yan had gone during that time. Now, it seemed likely he had engaged in a private conversation with the Eldest Prince.
This Eldest Prince.
Han Jiao furrowed his brow. In the novel, the Eldest Prince was a useless fence-sitter.
Initially, Prince Yan was the most suitable heir according to the ancestral system. Since his youth, the Eldest Prince had desperately curried favor with Prince Yan in private.
Later on, the case of wrongful execution for personal gain blew up, instigated by the impulsive actions of Prince Yan. This incident embarrassed the Emperor, who, in response, punished Prince Yan on charges of conspiring with border generals. The Eldest Prince, seeing the changing winds, switched his allegiance to Senior Minister Li’s faction, even going so far as to turn back and harshly criticize Prince Yan.
Prince Yan, who lost his Crown Prince position, endured mockery and scorn, which turned him into the reserved character described in the novel.
The primary events of the novel began when Prince Yan was twenty-six. The incident involving the fabricated case of wrongful execution for personal gain was merely a brief background memory, briefly explaining the reason for the protagonist’s change in temperament.
After defeating Senior Minister Li, Prince Yan regained power, while Big Boss Xie Duo rose secretly. At the same time, the Eldest Prince, who had offended Prince Yan too severely, hurriedly joined Xie Duo’s camp.
At this point, the faction of the Second Prince, who had fallen alongside Senior Minister Li, lost control over the North Garrison Command and the Liaodong Command, meaning they lost control over the Longyin Guards and the Northern Garrison forces.
These two forces were transferred to the Eldest Prince by the struggling Senior Minister Li in hopes of making a comeback.
During this period, even though the big boss was the Crown Prince, he had not nurtured any direct line of power before his descent into darkness. So, he accepted the Eldest Prince’s submission.
Perhaps, this was the Eldest Prince’s most unsuccessful attempt at changing allegiances. Aligning with the protagonist could at least save his life, but by turning to the big boss and secretly undermining his authority, in an attempt to accumulate power for Senior Minister Li’s comeback, ended up in a rather pitiful outcome.
During that time, Xie Duo had become quite corrupt. After setting out for a campaign with the Eldest Prince, he secretly persuaded the leader of an ethnic tribe, who were allied with the Tatars, to join forces.
After the first battle, the Eldest Prince was captured by the Tatars. Xie Duo sent a secret message to the ethnic leader he had persuaded, warning him not to let the Eldest Prince reveal their secret alliance to the Tatar leaders.
Upon receiving the message, the ethnic leader was so frightened that he silenced the captured Eldest Prince that very night.
After a decisive battle between the two forces, as Xie Duo had anticipated, the foreign forces, in alliance with Great Chu, defeated the Tatar main army.
According to their secret agreement, they were supposed to negotiate and divide the Tatar territory, but it was at this point that Xie Duo suggested they first go to the Tatar camp and rescue his eldest brother.
The ethnic leader was dumbfounded. He thought, “Didn’t your brother know about our secret? I silenced him, didn’t I?”
In a clumsy and apologetic manner, he casually mentioned at the drinking table that the Eldest Prince had already been eliminated. He hadn’t expected Xie Duo, in the name of “brotherly love,” to erupt in anger. “I only hinted that you shouldn’t let the Tatars torture my brother for information, and you actually went ahead and killed my Eldest Brother? He was a true brother who had stood by me through thick and thin.”
So, the big boss raised his hand and struck—
The formidable ethnic leader didn’t even have time to draw his weapon before the big boss took him down in an instant.
This leader died without closing his eyes, truly not expecting Xie Duo to act. At the time, they were celebrating within the ethnic leader’s tent, with Xie Duo and his companions, totaling three individuals. In contrast, the ethnic leader was accompanied by his four sons and the bravest warriors from his clan, amounting to a total of thirty-four people.
Who could have imagined that this fair-faced Crown Prince of Great Chu would draw his sword and swiftly defeat all thirty-four top experts…
Was he even human?
So, the powerful ethnic tribe, second only to the Tatars, were left leaderless, used by Xie Duo and then wiped out in the name of avenging his slain brother.
After the victorious campaign, the people of the entire country celebrated the Crown Prince for single-handedly eradicating two tribes that had invaded Great Chu for centuries. He disregarded his own safety and ventured deep into enemy territory, taking revenge on his brother’s killers. He was hailed as a hero of great loyalty and righteousness, the dream man of countless Great Chu girls.
He used a borrowed blade to eliminate the Tatars and the Eldest Prince, and then, using the Eldest Prince as a reasonable excuse, got rid of the borrowed blade.
This was how the Eldest Prince’s story ended, becoming one of the stepping stones for the big boss to gain power.
Recalling the original plot chilled Han Jiao’s heart. Xie Duo’s transformation into darkness was truly terrifying. In the early stages, they only knew he had inhuman combat skills, but later, they realized that this stinky little brother’s intelligence was just as formidable as his fighting prowess.
If it weren’t for the fact that this kid couldn’t outgrow his edgy phase and impulsively ended his own life, Han Jiao wouldn’t have had the confidence to help the male lead take down such a hellish-level antagonist.
Now, there was another problem. After helping Prince Yan resolve the fabricated case of wrongful execution for personal gain, the first major setback that Prince Yan should have faced in his life suddenly vanished. Without that crucial experience, the unyielding Prince Yan couldn’t develop the same level of cunning as he had in the novel.
It remained uncertain whether this would trigger a chain reaction, potentially putting Prince Yan, who had lost opportunities for growth, at a disadvantage.
At the moment, it seemed like this fence-sitting Eldest Prince was a major problem.
This pawn had hopped the fence several times, but upon closer examination, the fact that the Eldest Prince, in the later stages, dared to go behind the big boss’ back to pave the way for Senior Minister Li, made Han Jiao highly suspicious. He wondered if this guy might have been in cahoots with Senior Minister Li from the very beginning, perhaps even an informant Senior Minister Li planted by Prince Yan’s side in the early stages.
This complicated things because now that the fabricated case of wrongful execution for personal gain was resolved, the Eldest Prince wouldn’t voluntarily sever ties with Prince Yan. And given Prince Yan’s straightforward nature, he probably wouldnn’t suspect the Eldest Prince either.
Han Jiao might be highly regarded by Prince Yan, but he couldn’t possibly meddle with the brothers’ relationship, could he?
He had to find a way to make the Eldest Prince expose himself.
Prince Yan’s character was also a significant concern. Facing a treacherous road ahead, hitting obstacles early would aid his growth. Next time Senior Minister Li moved against Prince Yan, Han Jiao didn’t intend to intervene directly. He must make Prince Yan realize the perilous situation he was in.
Another, even more menacing threat was, of course, the big boss. Han Jiao sincerely hoped that Prince Yan could maintain his current genuine brotherly bond with his younger brother.
It was frustrating that the novel explained Xie Duo’s transformation into darkness in such a perfunctory manner. It just didn’t seem like he’d stop playing soccer simply because he feared Prince Yan’s strength.
In any case, this dangerous character must be closely monitored. Han Jiao has decided to go to the study room tomorrow to curry favor with the big boss.
All along, Han Jiao had been busy planning to gain Prince Yan’s trust. Now, the first step had been temporarily achieved, and he needed to divert some of his attention to establish a good rapport with the big boss.
But this stinky little brother was not easy to please.
Late into the night, while deep in thought, Han Jiao suddenly had an epiphany. He leaped out of bed, got dressed, and walked out of his bedroom to the study, where he lit a lamp.
With writing materials prepared, Han Jiao contemplated the blank sheet of paper for a long time, attempting to sketch something with his pen.
The next morning, he went to the study room.
Thanks to earning Prince Yan’s favor, various scholars from the Hanlin Academy were eager to teach Han Jiao. This increased his chances of encountering the big boss more often than before.
Just like now.
Similar to the first lesson, Xie Jing sat in the front row, and Han Jiao sat in the second row, sandwiched between two Princes. The difference was that last time he was closer to Xie Duo, while this time he was closer to Xie An.
When Han Jiao took his seat, he intentionally moved it closer to the big boss. However, as soon as he sat down, the big boss reached out without lifting his head, grasped the armrest of Han Jiao’s chair, and gently pushed him, along with the chair, toward Xie An.
From the slightly chilly profile of the big boss, it was evident that he was genuinely upset this time.
Xie Duo was truly angry, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on what had provoked his anger.
This little child prodigy always seemed so clingy to him, but the moment Sixth Brother was in the vicinity, his attention was entirely on Sixth Brother!
Used to being the center of attention in everyone’s eyes, this feeling of being completely disregarded in an instant was quite disheartening for Xie Duo.
Upon careful consideration, he realized that the only time the little child prodigy looked at him with full attention was when Sixth Brother wasn’t there.
Xie Duo initially thought it was a look of eager interest, but now he realized it was more like the look one would give to a stray dog they found by the roadside, just stopping by to play with it.
The number one cuju master of Great Chu would never stoop to becoming a stray dog on the roadside, absolutely not.
It wasn’t until the lecture was over that Han Jiao noticed that the big boss’ icy profile not only hadn’t warmed up but had grown even more upset.
Clearly, this wasn’t the right moment to get on his good side.
Han Jiao retrieved a sketch he had made from his sleeve, unfurled it slowly, cleared his throat, and spoke in a voice that the big boss could hear. He addressed Xie An, “Your Highness, have you ever seen a cuju ball like this?”
Xie An set aside his book and took the drawing with curiosity. He held great respect for the artistry of Master Han, even though he had never seen a “ball” that looked this ugly. Xie An politely pointed out the peculiarities in the drawing and asked, “Master Xiaobai, is this long thing also a ball?”
“This is an air pump. It can enhance the elasticity and feel of the cuju ball, making it less prone to getting overinflated or deflated when kicked.”
The big boss, who was nearby, cast a subtle glance, resisting his curiosity and steadfastly refusing to sneak a peek at the drawing.
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